Summary: This sermon is about what God really wants from us.
Imagine the scene. Jesus has just had a rather tense confrontation with some of the religious leaders. He heads to the Temple with his disciples. They sit down near where the offerings were received.
The offerings were received in a different manner than we are used to. They had 13 offering boxes. Each of them was shaped like a trumpet. Each one had a different purpose. There was a box for contributions to the building fund. One was for the priests’ salary. One was for helping the poor. For whatever purpose, there existed a box for the offering.
When each individual went up to put their tithe and offering into the box they would announce the amount of the gift and what purpose it was for. They might say, “$500 for the building fund, and $200 for the hunger relief fund.” That’s where we pick up the passage today. Turn with me to Mark 12.
Read Mark 12:41-44.
This passage teaches us how much God really wants from us. This goes beyond money. The main example in this passage is money, but it extends into all aspects of our life. This relates to time, abilities, responsibilities, and money. The principles taught in this passage include all aspects of our life as it relates to our service for God.
It seems kind of preposterous that Jesus would say, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.” That seems crazy to say something like that. When we consider that in the original language what he really said was that in that one act of giving, the widow gave more than all the other people gave combined throughout their lives. Two measly copper coins worth less than one cent are said to be more than thousands of dollars. How can that be? That much money wouldn’t buy anything. What can you buy for a penny? I remember when I was a kid that some places still had penny gumball machines, but I haven’t seen one of those in years.
To fully understand and appreciate what Jesus meant, we have to realign our thinking a little. We are so enamored in our society with the size of wealth. Fortune magazine and Forbes publish lists of the wealthiest companies and individuals. We hear reports of the obscenely large salaries of professional athletes. We hear about the great generosity of people who give thousands of dollars to charity. The bigger the gift the better, but that is not how Jesus was looking at it as these events unfolded.
The first principle learned from this passage is that…
I. Real giving must be SACRIFICIAL.
During his recent gubernatorial campaign in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger was criticized for some apparent anti-Semitic comments. In his defense, it was noted that he gave $1 million to the Simon Wiesenthal Center that remembers the Holocaust and seeks to avoid something similar in the future. Arnold was praised for his generous spirit in giving the $1 million. He was recently paid $30 million for his role in this summer’s movie Terminator 3. Add that $30 million to all the money he has made from his movie roles over that last quarter century and that’s a bunch of money. While it’s great that Arnold made that kind of contribution to such a worth cause, it really was no sacrifice for him. To us, $1 million is a lot, but to Arnold it is pocket change. Giving $1 million was something that was comfortable for Arnold.
What Jesus was trying to teach his disciples here, and us, is that real giving must have an element of sacrifice. The truth is that…
A. The AMOUNT of the gift does not matter.
While the Bible doesn’t tell us how much the others put in the offering box, it does say that the gave “large sums.” That would lead us to believe that they were contributions that to the average citizen would be a lot of money. Similar to Arnold’s contribution of $1 million, which looks so big to us, these contributions were sizeable. Remember Jesus was a carpenter, and many of his disciples were fishermen. They would not have been accustomed to having large sums of money.
These individuals were probably rather proud of their sizeable contributions to the Temple. With great pride they probably tried to outdo each other. They impressed each other with great big gifts. The priests were probably also very impressed by the great gifts. They were thinking of all the good that they could do with these most generous contributions. There was one individual who was not impressed with the large contributions. Jesus was not the least bit impressed by these huge contributions. He noted, “For they all contributed out of their abundance.” This was money that they would not miss. They would certainly have enough money to buy food and clothes. They also had plenty left over for the luxuries of life. They gave vast amounts of cash, but it was no sacrifice for them at all.